Hunters, Anglers Object to Last-Minute Lead Ban

Published March 3, 2017

Dan Ashe, former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), issued a directive to phase out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle within the nation’s wildlife refuges and other federal lands controlled by the agency.

The directive bans the use of lead in ammunition and fishing tackle on more than 307 million acres of federal land, effective January 2022.

The FWS action expands the existing ban on the use of lead shot for hunting migratory waterfowl to all types of ammunition and fishing equipment that use lead for all species on FWS-managed lands.

Ashe issued the directive on January 19, the day before President Donald Trump took the oath of office as president.

‘Breach of Trust’

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), which represents the 50 states’ fish and wildlife agencies, issued a press statement expressing “utter dismay” over the FWS action.

“The Association views this Order as a breach of trust and deeply disappointing given that it was a complete surprise and there was no current dialogue or input from state fish and wildlife agencies prior to issuance,” AFWA President Nick Wiley said in the statement. “It does a disservice to hunters and anglers, the firearms and angling industries, and the many professionals on staff with the USFWS who desire a trusting and transparent relationship with their state partners.”

Sportsmen’s groups argue bans on traditional lead ammunition and fishing tackle will raise the cost of hunting and fishing, harming those industries without providing a conservation benefit.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) issued a statement on FWS’ directive, saying, “ASA views this unilateral policy to ban lead fishing tackle, which was developed without any input from the industry, other angling organizations, and state fish and wildlife agencies, as a complete disregard for the economic and social impact it will have on anglers and the recreational fishing industry.”

‘Outrageous,’ ‘Unconscionable’

John Jackson III, president of Conservation Force, says Ashe’s last-minute action was a “payoff” to radical environmentalists.

“This outrageous conduct is clearly a payoff by the outgoing Obama administration to radical environmental allies in an effort to limit sportsmen’s use of lands their dollars pay for,” Jackson said. “This is regulation intended to drive ammunition costs up and drive hunters out of their sport.

“This directive skipped the normal regulatory process, including scientific and public input, with good reason, because there is no sound conservation basis for the order,” said Jackson. “The lack of process was unconscionable and speaks for itself.”

‘Totally Politically Motivated’

Ben Carter, executive director of the Dallas Safari Club, and Jackson say they hope the Trump administration will rescind the order.

“The surprising, last-minute actions of Mr. Ashe are totally politically motivated,” said Carter. “We implore the new administration to swiftly abolish [Ashe’s directive] and return to joint state and federal decision-making based on scientific merit.”

“I doubt this drivel will come into force under the new Trump administration,” said Jackson.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.